published Saturday, October 1st, 2011

South Chickamauga Creek Greenway gets addition

IF YOU GO

• What: South Chickamauga Creek Greenway segment grand opening

• When: 2:30 p.m. Sunday

• Where: Sterchi Farm City Park off Harrison Pike

• Events: Speakers, information tables, greenway walk/ride. Free canoes and bikes for paddling or riding will be available.

• How to get there: From Chattanooga, take Amnicola Highway east. Just before the state Route 153 intersection, turn right on Access Road. Take the first right on Harrison Pike and drive about 2 miles to the park entrance on the left.


IF YOU RIDE

The Chattanooga Bicycle Club plans a 10-mile round-trip ride to the grand opening. Cyclists assemble at the Amnicola Marsh parking lot on the Tennessee Riverwalk at 1 p.m. Sunday. For information, call ride leader Andy Jones at 423-987-3862.


BY THE NUMBERS

Money for the new section of greenway came from:

• $1.6 million: City share of federal transportation enhancement grant

• $650,000: Lyndhurst Foundation

• $500,000: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

• $200,000: Benwood Foundation

Source: Trust for Public Land

The new section of the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway that officially opens Sunday is both a physical and a symbolic link.

The 2.6-mile trail is a key piece in Chattanooga's grand plan to link Camp Jordan in East Ridge and the Tennessee Riverpark. Along the way, the winding, wooded trail passes sites of hidden history -- Indian habitation, anti-secessionist rebellion and Civil War clashes.

"There's going to be places on this trail that people in Chattanooga have never witnessed because you couldn't get to it," city Parks and Recreation Director Larry Zehnder said Thursday while showing off the new segment.

The city is throwing a party Sunday to celebrate the grand opening. Participants will be invited to walk or paddle from Sterchi Farm City Park off Harrison Pike to the concrete path's terminus at Faith Road and put their signatures on a memorial wall for future display, Zehnder said.

The new section follows South Chickamauga Creek and a boardwalk and bridge span South Chickamauga Creek and travel along rocky, wooded bluffs above the creek, where great blue herons wing past and turtles bask on waterside rocks.

"It's a phenomenal section of greenway. One of the most unique I've ever seen," said Phillip Grimes of Outdoor Chattanooga. "The greenway will help bring more awareness not only to the creek, but to that area of the city."

Jim Ogden, historian for the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, said he'll speak Sunday about the area's connections to the past.

In November 1861, anti-secessionist locals rebelled against Confederate authority by trying to burn key railroad bridges, Ogden said. They succeeded at one of the two Western and Atlantic Railroad bridges along the trail -- now owned by Norfolk Southern and still in use.

Two years later, Union and Confederate forces clashed at the site of the Sterchi Farm as part of the Battle of Missionary Ridge, Ogden said.

Zehnder said the Trust for Public Land assembled the land and put together the funding for the greenway segment.

Rick Wood, Tennessee state office director with the Trust for Public Land, said the nonprofit worked with seven landowners for trail easements or outright purchases.

"We really are about helping create park space for people to enjoy. People will enjoy this thing for generations," Wood said.

He said former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp of Chattanooga helped secure federal transportation enhancement funds for the work. Other funding came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- the federal stimulus -- and from the Lyndhurst and Benwood foundations.

Two greenway sections remain to be built.

Wood said the trust is one easement away from securing the land for a 3 1/2-mile segment linking the new end at Faith Road to a section at the Brainerd Levee at Shallowford Road, which goes to Camp Jordan in East Ridge.

On the north end, there's still a 3/4-mile segment to be built from North Hawthorne Street to the Riverwalk.

Though Zehnder said the need for deficit reduction introduces uncertainty about future federal funding, Wood said he's hopeful the money will be there when it's needed.

"At the same time, we've got to do our part and make sure we do the best job we can do to be as cost-effective as possible," Wood said.

He and Zehnder said that Chattanooga's parks and outdoor opportunities are a key selling point when potential employers come scouting.

"It's not just icing on the cake. It's critical infrastructure to our communities," Wood said.

about Judy Walton...

Judy Walton has worked 25 years at the Chattanooga Times and the Times Free Press as an editor and reporter focusing on government coverage and investigations. At various times she has been an assistant metro editor, region reporter and editor, county government reporter, government-beat team leader, features editor and page designer. Originally from California, Walton was brought up in a military family and attended a dozen schools across the country. She earned a journalism degree ...

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